Busting Myths About Dark Skin — Is Sunscreen Even Necessary?
Asians are constantly exposed to the sun, and in most cases, those with lighter skin tones are more worried about exposure to the sun than those with darker tones. This is mainly due to skin colour consciousness and concern about their complexion turning darker, whereas those with brown to dark skin tones are inclined to think that the rule doesn’t apply to them.
Although you can find a lot of beauty products that boasts sun protecting benefits, up until now, there is no proper guidance on the lifestyle of the population in the Asia. While yes, our skin type can tan easily but will rarely burn (unlike Caucasians), it is important to note that those who tend to disregard warnings of sun exposure may be at a higher risk of getting skin cancer.
In light of this, we met Dr Lee Chee Chau (Anshaw), the medical director of Meridian Clinic, and questioned him some of the most common misconceptions surrounding dark skin tones:
Myth 1: Sunscreen is not necessary
Since pigmented (melanin-rich) skin provides a bit of extra protection from the sun, many Asians with dark complexion think they do not need to apply sunscreen — which is not true. In fact, the strong ultra-violet rays can very well penetrate through the clouds even on cool, non-sunny days. And having a darker complexion doesn’t render immunity.
According to the doctor, there are 6 types of skin, which ranges from very fair to very dark. “Sunscreen is needed to protect the skin from the sun as well as to prevent wrinkles. So it doesn’t matter if you have fair, brown or dark complexion, you need sunscreen”, remarked Dr. Anshaw. The dermatologist said the sun blocks with SPF (Sun Protection Factor) 30 to 60 are enough, and be warned that sun blocks with SPF 100 does not mean that your protection has been tripled.
Myth 2: What wrinkles?
Dr. Anshaw revealed that, “The darker your skin, the larger the pockets in skin cells known as melanosomes which contains melanin. Very pale skin produces almost no melanin and Asian skins produce a yellowish type of melanin. Meanwhile, darker skin tones produce the darkest, thickest melanin of all — where the melanin is packed so tightly that it absorbs and scatters more light, giving you more protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.”
Broadly speaking, the darker the skin, the longer it will take to show lines and wrinkles because that person is walking around with a natural SPF for their entire lives. However, ageing isn’t just about wrinkles, as we have to worry about hyperpigmentation, loss of elasticity, as well as loss of volume.
Myth 3: Dark spots & pigmentation
If you’re above 25 years of age, we’re pretty sure that you understand what it means to be freaked out by hyperpigmentation — the number-one skin concern for women of colour. According to Dr. Anshaw, “Patchy, uneven skin is mainly caused by over-exposure to UV rays, in which the overproduction of melanin will manifest itself in dark spots”.
He continued, “There’s also the skin trauma caused by acne or a wound (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation a.k.a. PIH) where the skin overcompensates during the healing process by producing so much melanin that it leaves scars”.
Those with lighter skin tones will find it easier to get rid of spots on their skin. Unfortunately, like a cat that pees to mark its territory, the spots on darker skin tones would always leave a scar. What’s more, the rejuvenating process of our skin tend to slow down once we’ve reached adulthood. During our teen years, scars could heal within 1 week, but now, even a tiny spot mark could take more than 3 months to recover, depending on how we take care of our skin.
Myth 4: Laser treatments are unsafe for darker skin types
There is a misconception that lasers cannot be used on darker skin tones without causing scarring or hyperpigmentation in some areas. This is not true, as long as the proper laser is used, such as the Pro Yellow Laser Treatment that aims to brighten complexion and treat hyperpigmentation in patients with both light and darker pigments.
Using an innovative, portable laser machine known as QuadroStar, the world’s first pure yellow laser provides the best absorption when treating blood vessels. This translates to less power required during treatment, resulting in greater comfort (no pain at all), ability to safely treat darker skin types, shorter healing period, as well as reduced risk of side effects (no burns or pigmentation change).
As a matter of fact, it only took 15 – 30 minutes for my skin to heal, which allowed me to resume my daily tasks soon after. Think of the treatment as a “lunch break” cosmetic procedure. My skin instantly looked one tone brighter, clear of blemishes/pigmentation and way smoother after the treatment. So smooth, that it seemed like I had a beauty filter on my face IRL. So impressive.
Myth 4: DIY alternatives are not harmful
Admit it, at some point of your life, you must have tried out a home skin remedy or some unorthodox treatment to brighten your skin or get rid of annoying pimples. Baking soda and lemon juice exfoliation are total favorites of the home remedy set. But did you know, that just because you’re using natural ingredients, the practice might not necessarily be safe for your skin?
Lemon juice as a once-in-a-blue-moon quick fix is harmless. However, frequent use of lemon could dry out your skin and make breakouts more frequent. In fact, if you’re out in the sun with lots of lemon juice on your face, you may even suffer from chemical burns.
Meanwhile, baking soda, an alkali product, could create an imbalance in your skin’s pH. Aside from that, before you use toothpaste to “fix” your acne, do note that it is extremely harsh on the skin and cause the area around the pimple to peel and dry out, or worse, make your pimple even redder.